Text Me: A New Way to Engage Defendants

April 08, 2022 by Meredith Trimble

Text Me: A New Way to Engage Defendants

In the average court, 67% of cases enter non-compliance status before they are resolved. Twelve percent of cases remain unresolved every year, even after using tools such as warrant roundup and collections. Courts and justice partners alike struggle with caseload backlogs and high failure to appear (FTA) rates that bog down processes and tie up time and resources. In a world of instant gratification, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get defendants to engage with courts in person – if at all.

Frustrated by consistently high FTA rates and the resulting strain on time and staff, five innovative courts tested new ways to use their existing software to encourage defendants to better manage their citations. The result was a 22% reduction in open cases after 30 days.

Using a service already accessible in their common court software, the courts strategically deployed text messaging campaigns to notify defendants of key court dates and deadlines. Based on their tests, the courts came together to define the following best practices for continuing text notifications to maximum effect.

  1. Use citation reminders. The initial appearance rate increased from 56% to 62% in the five courts when they simply reminded defendants of their citations and hearing dates via text. Results analysis showed one week prior and one day prior to the hearing date to be the best times to send these reminders.
  2. Provide online payment. In each text message, the courts included a link for the defendant to resolve the case online, eliminating the need to appear in person at the courthouse. Presenting an online payment option via text increased payments by an average of 22%.
  3. Time payment reminders. After testing various times and days for text reminders, the courts found that notices sent on Fridays, when many people are likely to receive paychecks, resulted in higher numbers of case resolution.

Employing these best practices to notify defendants can stop the pileup of unresolved cases year after year. Using technology to move cases from the docket to resolution not only frees up valuable court resources, but it’s also fast and fair resolution for defendants as well.

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